Blair frustrated as UN fails to agree on anti-terror action

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Indy Politics

The Prime Minister won the backing of the 15-member United Nations Security Council yesterday for a resolution urging UN member states to crack down on those who "incite" terrorism as well as terrorist acts.

But the wider UN General Assembly failed to reach agreement on a clear definition of terrorism at the summit to mark the organisation's 60th anniversary after Muslim countries blocked moves to condemn the targeting of civilians.

In his speech to the Security Council, a frustrated Mr Blair voiced his fears that the UN had not taken a stronger and more united stance againstterrorists. He said the world had to end its "ambivalence" about fighting their "twisted reasoning and wretched excuses" as well as their methods.

"Terrorism won't be defeated until our determination is as complete as theirs, our defence of freedom as absolute as their fanaticism, our passion for democracy as great as their passion for tyranny," he said. "The terrorists want us to believe that the terrorism is our fault, that their extremism is somehow our responsibility. They play on our divisions. They exploit our hesitations. This is our weakness and they know it."

The Prime Minister denied that the Iraq war had fomented terrorism despite warnings from intelligence chiefs that it had increased the threat in Britain. "The root cause is not a decision on foreign policy, however contentious, it is a doctrine of fanaticism and we must unite to uproot it," he said.

Condemning yesterday's bombings in Iraq, Mr Blair said terrorism had "slaughtered innocent people, Muslims, queuing for jobs in Iraq" and had now disfigured countries in every continent with every conceivable mix of races and religions. "This terror is a movement. It has an ideology. It has a strategy," he said.

AfterJuly's London bombings, UN leaders supported the British-led initiative by agreeing to "counter incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and intolerance and to prevent the subversion of educational, cultural and religious institutions by terrorists and their supporters".

Mr Blair rammed home the point at talks in the margins of the summit with Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan, one of the countries that opposed Mr Blair's appeal. It was their first meeting since the London attacks, after which evidence emerged that at least one of the alleged bombers had attended a madrassa in Pakistan.

British officials said Pakistan had pledged to shut down any of the religious schools where fanatics were fomenting extremism and to expel any foreign nationals attending them. They denied that the UN's stance on terrorism was a disappointment and insisted that the Security Council resolution had the force of law and included a follow-up procedure under which the UN's counter-terrorism committee would report back to the council in 12 months on how the crackdown had been implemented by member states.

Mr Blair's official spokesman acknowledged the process could only bring "pressure to bear" and could not force countries to act. But he argued that what mattered most was not "perfect" wording defining terrorism but the practical measures taken to combat it. Last night, in a separate speech to the UN General Assembly, Mr Blair emphasised the need for action against terrorism to be accompanied by help for the world's poorest countries.